‘Carrie is a big tote bag carrier – that sends a message’: How And Just Like That costume designers brought SATC into 2021

As the long-awaited Sex and the City reboot arrives, Olivia Petter speaks to costume designers Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago about styling the iconic characters for the modern era

Sunday 12 December 2021 12:27

And just like that, Carrie Bradshaw is back. It’s the reunion Sex and the City fans have spent the past decade waiting for. Of course, we’ve been eagerly anticipating what life looks like for everyone’s favourite overpaid fashion journalist in 2021 – has she learnt how to use an iPhone? Have her and Mr Big kept their spark? And what happened with Samantha? But one question surely trumps them all: what will she wear?

Fans of the cult SATC franchise will already know that legendary costume designer Patricia Field was unavailable to style the reboot – she was working on season two of Emily in Paris. Filling her inimitable shoes, though, are Molly Rogers, who worked alongside Field on the original HBO series, and Danny Santiago, who worked on both of the SATC films. “It was just like a big old reunion,” Rogers tells The Independent. “It was so exciting; all of the girls came in with really fresh attitudes.”

Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw.

The “girls” include Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte York (Kristen Davis) – Kim Cattrall famously chose not to reprise her role as Samantha Jones for the project. The last time she saw her old co-stars was during production of the 2010 film Sex and the City 2, when the women were in their forties and gallivanting around Abu Dhabi in a menagerie of extravagant kaftans, sequins, and mildly offensive headwear. This time, Rogers and Santiago have brought the characters back to the idiosyncratic aesthetics they channeled in the series. Charlotte in her Waspy blouses, Miranda in her vivid tailoring, and Carrie in all her mis-matched chaotic glory.

“They each have a very specific type of look,” says Santiago, who insists that he and Rogers have stayed true to the characters’ original sense of style. “What we’ve done is bring it more up to modern times.”

They each have a very specific type of look. What we’ve done is bring it more up to modern times

Molly Rogers

Of course, this means different things for different characters. For Carrie, it’s a case of channeling her signature playfulness through more sophisticated silhouettes – think silk tailoring, high-waisted circle skirts, and free-flowing playsuits – while incorporating unexpected flourishes, like a giant floral brooch, a second handbag, or a heart-shaped necklace that looks like it was picked out of a dressing up box.

As for Miranda, classic skirt-and-shirt combos are updated with dynamic detailing – think diagonal buttons and clashing prints. Charlotte, meanwhile, seems to have become an Alexander McQueen poster girl, sporting the brand’s trademark feminine frocks on several occasions throughout the series, in addition to poplin skirts and polka dot prints aplenty.

If there’s anything that is true of the style of all three characters, it’s that none of them conform to sartorial stereotypes usually attached to women in their fifties ie frumpy, figureless clothing. This was very much intentional. “I would never assign a number to anything or anyone when we’re styling them,” says Rogers. “I think if you’re in an outfit and you feel confident in it then it’s appropriate. It’s ageless for you.”

Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes

The design duo were just as free-thinking in their styling process when it came to gender, often sourcing items that were non gender-specific. It’s an apt choice, considering And Just Like That sees the introduction of the SATC franchise’s first-ever non-binary character: Che Diaz, played by Sara Ramirez. “We just had fun with it,” Santiago says of their approach. “I don’t really put a label on a piece of clothing. Nowadays, there are so many more options as far as what people can wear and how they can express themselves. There’s nothing that says to me, ‘well this is only for men and this is for women’. It’s about what works for you; if it fits it fits!”

Both stylists lament the fact that viewers don’t always feel the same way. “The internet is guilty of labeling more than anybody,” says Rogers. “Recently, we were in Cynthia Nixon’s trailer and she was like, ‘ugh, I was in that beautiful plaid blouse the other day and now the entire internet thinks Miranda’s a lesbian’. They all went nuts because it was plaid and she was a lumberjack all of a sudden.” Nixon, who has been married to Christine Marinoni since 2012, has previously said she identifies as “queer”. Whether Miranda’s sexuality (she begins the series still married to Steve Brady) will be a storyline in the show remains to be seen.

The first two episodes do, however, introduce us to a flurry of new faces. In addition to Ramirez, who plays a podcaster that works with Carrie, Sarita Choudhury and Nicole Ari Parker have joined the show in supporting roles. “When you are cast on a show like this, it’s very intimidating to come into the fitting room,” says Rogers. “We put together mood boards for each of them and spoke to executive producer Michael Patrick King about what silhouettes would work on them. It was a real opportunity to establish new people in the Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda world and it was a lot of fun and exploration.”

There’s very specific storylines to some of these pieces of clothing; they’re really like characters in their own right

Danny Santiago

Fans will be delighted to see the return of some iconic pieces from the series, such as the “Carrie” necklace (remember when she lost it in Paris?) and the purple sequin Fendi baguette (“it’s not a bag, it’s a baguette!”). Many of these archive pieces were loaned to Rogers and Santiago from none other than Parker herself, who has kept Carrie’s original clothing from the series. “She’s been storing it over all these years so she gave us access to go into her archive and pull some of these special pieces that we wanted to reintroduce,” says Santiago. As any fan will know, these particular items carry a lot of sentimentality. “They’re old friends to a lot of the fans,” explains Santiago. “There’s very specific storylines to some of these pieces of clothing; they’re really like characters in their own right.”

Despite these familiar items, And Just Like That feels like a new aesthetic era. This is partly due to the numerous items that were pulled from designers around the globe, with Israel, Columbia, and Canada just some of the countries from where pieces were sourced. Both Rogers and Santiago were keen to champion global artisan craftsmanship, always purchasing these items as opposed to borrowing them like they would from the major fashion houses. “We get a lot of stuff loaned to us but we don’t borrow from small designers,” says Rogers. “We want to support them and do everything we can.”

Sara Ramírez as Che Diaz

As the climate crisis rages on, and conspicuous consumption becomes increasingly gauche, making a show that puts flashy fashion centre stage might seem at odds with the cultural mood. But don’t let And Just Like That’s glossy finish fool you. One of SATC’s trademarks when it came to styling was Field’s hybrid approach of pairing new pieces with vintage ones, and it’s a tactic Rogers and Santiago have stuck with.

“The outfits are always a mix of vintage and contemporary,” says Santiago. “That’s what makes them unique.” In addition to frequenting vintage shops and markets, the two would source disused items in unexpected places, too. “Someone will call us and say there’s a factory up in the Bronx that’s shutting down and we’ll go up there and dig around on a Saturday,” says Rogers. “No one will be paying us but we’ll find something amazing and it will be worth it.” She references a small wicker handbag in the shape of a parasol that she and Santiago found. “It’s in the show in a secret little Easter egg place.”

Despite the stylists’ savvy approach, there are those who will argue that sustainability can never really be championed in a franchise like SATC. But maybe that’s no bad thing. After all, it’s hardly known for its gritty verisimilitude. “You’d have to be living on a desert island under a rock if you weren’t aware of what was happening in this world and you want to do your part, even if it’s small,” says Rogers, aware of the limitations. As for how these concerns are reflected in the characters, she points out that Carrie is a “big tote bag carrier”. “Don’t you think that’s better than her walking in every scene with a plastic bag from the grocery store? I think that sends a message.”

And Just Like That … is available from 9 December on Sky Comedy and streaming service Now.

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